Transport operators have lashed out at the handling of restrictions on heavy trucks using the West Gate Bridge, claiming the move forces them to use congested inner-west streets.
An online map last week released by VicRoads shows 77.5-tonne B-double and 85.5-tonne A-double trucks, which can carry two shipping containers, are restricted from using the bridge but are permitted to travel through Footscray and Yarraville via Whitehall and Francis streets and Williamstown Road.
A 68.5-tonne limit on the bridge is in place despite $371 million being spent on bridge-strengthening less than five years ago.
VicRoads regional director Vince Punaro said a limited number of high performance freight vehicles (HPFV) above 68.5 tonnes had been granted a permit to access the West Gate Bridge.
“We are assessing the bridge to determine what load limits need to be in place in future,” he said. The assessment is expected to be finished mid-year.
Maribyrnong council chief executive Stephen Wall said the heavy vehicle network map, bridge weight limits and predicted future traffic growth to and from the Port of Melbourne would have a major impact on the area.
“Increased truck traffic contributes to increased health, environmental and pollution costs and an increased need for road maintenance across our city,” Mr Wall said.
Matt Simmons, managing director of Brooklyn-based transport company Rocke Brothers, said the weight limit had “massive consequences” for local operators.
“The West Gate Bridge is a critical piece of infrastructure for transport operators moving containers from the west and inner-west,” he said.
Rocke currently operates three B-double HPFVs, but for the past 18 months has been seeking – without success – permits to run an extra 10. Mr Simmons said allowing trucks up to 77.5 tonnes could halve the number of truck trips required for heavy, containerised exports such as grain, timber, sand and paper.
The Maribyrnong Truck Action Group has said heavy trucks should be limited to the freeway network.
But Mr Simmons said HPFVs were among the safest vehicles on the roads, reducing emissions and the number of truck trips required.
He said the Western Distributor would offer a long-term solution from 2022, but in the short term HPFVs should be made exempt from curfews on the roads of the inner- west.